Actor Aldis Hodge, who plays Janelle Monáe’s husband Levi in the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures,” isn’t one to hold back. When asked if he ever thought he’d be attending Sunday’s ceremony, he said, “At the risk of sounding a bit presumptuous, yes. My goal is to continue to grow. That’s not to say that if your film’s not nominated that you have not grown by any measure, but it is a big flag that says you’re doing alright.” While Hodge also received notices for roles in “Straight Outta Compton” and WGN’s “Underground,” acting is not his only love; he also paints and designs watches for his own company, Basil Timepiece. Hodge chatted with WWD about his long road to Hollywood (he’s been acting since he was three years old) and what else makes him tick.
WWD: What was it like playing alongside Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe?
Aldis Hodge: It was my second time working with Octavia. The first time I worked with her, I was 14 years old on a series called “City of Angels.” To experience such a grand time with someone I worked with so long ago reminds me that nothing is a coincidence and eventually you’re going to meet up later.
WWD: What was the funniest moment on the set of “Hidden Figures”?
A.H.: I played a trick on Taraji. She was walking past the craft service table and she saw these honey buns and she said she wasn’t going to get them because she was dieting and working out. So when she walked away, I snuck about two or three onto her chair. When she saw them she was like, “What are you trying to do?” And I was like, “Hey, I’m just trying to support your bad habits.”
WWD: Were you nervous at all to work with them?
A.H.: No, because being in this business for so long, I’ve had to assert who I am. It’s not that I’m walking around as the big man on campus, it’s just looking at somebody to my right and my left and saying, “You know what? We’re here because we’re supposed to be, so let’s get this thing done.”
WWD: Do you have a stylist for the Oscars?
A.H.: I don’t; I like to shop. This is the big one. You do not want to make the wrong choice. Fashion is a language. I guess what I’m trying to say, is “I’m here. I’ve arrived.”
WWD: At last year’s Oscars, there was a lack of diversity. Now “Hidden Figures” is receiving nods along with other films. What does the recognition mean to you personally?
A.H.: Now that we’ve seen a world of inclusion it means that Hollywood and our critics have started listening. The audience is the boss. If they don’t see themselves reflected in our work you’re going to have an outcry like last year. I’m happy people started acknowledging other cultures that make up America.
WWD: Is there anyone that you secretly want to meet?
A.H.: I think the only person left might be Meryl Streep. I’d definitely like to get a little face time.
WWD: Tell us about your watch company Basil Timepiece.
A.H.: I discovered watchmaking through product design courses at school. For five years I worked as a concept designer, creating around pre-fabricated movements. When I was 23 I pitched Hamilton a couple of my ideas and they said, “You should go be an independent.” They introduced me to a couple of people and at [age] 25 I started my own company. Our first watch is launching soon.